While They Slept
by Kathryn Harrison

Harrison.WhileSleptA chilling and enthralling true life account of a woman who survived her brother’s murder of their parents.

Opening paragraph: On the morning of Thursday, April 26, 1984, Jody Gilley went to her neighbor Kathy Ackerson’s before school. As was her habit, she went out the kitchen door and cut across the field that separated their two homes. Jody and Kathy had gotten to know each other the previous year, on the bus to and from Medford High, where they were now sophomores. They didn’t socialize during the school day; Jody hung with a straighter crowd than Kathy, who by her own admission was something of a stoner. As Jody describes it, she and Kathy weren’t best friends, but they liked each other and were frequently in each other’s homes. “My next-field neighbor,” they called each other. It wasn’t unusual for Jody to finish getting dressed over at Kathy’s.

Quotes from critics: “[Harrison’s] telling brings moral clarity to the dark fate of a family: the daylight gaze of narrative itself as a form of empathy.” (New York Times Book Review); “A tale at once gothic and Greek, Freudian and Shakespearean, taboo and tragic.” (Washington Post Book World); “Magnificent . . . a darkly poignant study of survival.” (USA Today); “Masterful . . .a fascinating and comprehensive examination of the before and after of a brutal triple murder, of the cyclical nature of violence and of the tragic ineffectiveness of our social support systems.” (Los Angeles Times); “You can count on Harrison for white-water prose and ferocious candor…Harrison’s intense and resonant inquiry affirms the cathartic power of the story, and reflects on the miraculous cycle of loss and death.”(Booklist)

Bio: Kathryn Harrison (1961- ) is the author of eight fiction and six nonfiction books. Brought up by her grandparents in Los Angeles, she now lives in New York, where she teaches at Hunter College. Harrison has written extensively and movingly in both novels and a memoir about her incestuous relationship with her father.

Also worth reading: The Kiss, Enchantments